Where is Township Council’s Official Statement about this tragedy?
Last Tuesday, April 24th, I attended the special session of Township Council with every expectation that Council would make an official comment regarding the rumors swirling about Mayor John Bencivengo’s “situation”. Unfortunately, it did not come. Despite being asked to tell us ONLY what it was that they were going to discuss, the Township Attorney and Council told the public that they had no obligation to tell us what it was they were discussing. So, Council asked us to leave the room and then they closed the door behind us. They may have well just slammed the door shut. They blew it. They blew it big time.
To begin with, it took a lot of courage for Council President Kevin Meara to call that special session. He did the right thing and he needs to be recognized for it. But he got stonewalled.
I do believe that Council has the right to go into a closed-door session to discuss personnel matters. They also have an obligation to not reveal confidential personnel information. On the same token, before that door closes in the public’s face, Council has an obligation to tell the public what the closed-door session is about. They failed to do that. In so doing, they robbed the residents from knowing the position of Township Council on the matter relating to Mayor John Bencivengo.
Please allow me to restate. I do not take a position that council must publicly discuss confidential personnel issues in detail. At a minimum, they should tell the public aka their constituents, “We are going to go in to a closed-door session to discuss the situation surrounding Mayor John Bencivengo and the succession rules outlined by Township Ordinance and State Law.” Even though that would have been appropriate, given the impact of John Bencivengo’s alleged actions it is and still is not enough to do.
Hamilton Township Council is obligated to issue on Council letterhead a statement giving their position on the matter of John Bencivengo’s charges of alleged extortion and corruption.
Back to the matter of a Closed Door Session. Why did they even go into a closed-door session? Afterall, according to council members, at that point in time, they had no idea what the issue(s) surrounding John Bencivengo was. If that was the case then what possible confidential information could they have discussed? Following the time line of events and their prior personal statements, then logically speaking, none.
Despite a meeting that was closed to the public, Council has yet to make an official statement about the issue surrounding John Bencivengo. For that matter neither has the remnants of John Bencivengo’s administration.
Regardless, Hamilton Township Council has an obligation to the residents of Hamilton that go beyond partisan concerns:
1) What did you know?
2) What do you know?
3) When did you know it
4) What are you going to do about it
5) What is Councils opinion – should John Bencivengo resign or not.
Council needs to do their job and inform the public. Residents of Hamilton Township have the right to know your position as a Council – not individual members of council. Council needs to be on record.
Most egregious was the line of questioning by council members to the Administration whose leader is charged with a crime “Has the Township been with any subpoenas?” Reply from the Business Administrator: “No.” “So, the Township is not the subject of any investigation?” Reply from the Business Administrator: “No.”
“Is the Township operating smoothly and without interruption?” Reply from the Business Administrator: “Yes.”
Get out of your chairs. Why are you going to take their word for it? You are a separate entity from the administration. You should be doing your own investigations. From your own examinations you should be determining if the Township is operating smoothly.
Even without John Bencivengo’s presence, Hamilton Township Council is still abdicating their responsibilities to him and his appointees.
Council’s actions – rather lack of action – is a shame and a disgrace.